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Offseason Cheatsheet: Defensive backs

Aug 25, 2010, 7:02 PM EDT

Offseason Cheatsheets continue with your Du Lac approved crib-sheet for the upcoming season. For more, check out the quarterbacks, running backs, tight ends and wide receivers.

POSITION OVERVIEW:

Heading into last season, the Irish felt good about their secondary. The Irish only needed to replace David Bruton, and a natural replacement was there with Harrison Smith, who had seen the field as an undersized outside linebacker. Returning after a year away from the football program was Darrin Walls, there to push fellow cornerbacks Robert Blanton, Raeshon McNeil, and Gary Gray. The Irish thought they had all the pieces in place needed for an elite secondary. They were obviously wrong. With a defense hellbent on pressuring the quarterback and failing to do so, the Irish defense struggled mightily against the pass, too often giving up the big play. Whether it was broken coverages or late reads, the secondary took a major step back, and gave up far too many career days to opposing quarterbacks. With safeties Sergio Brown and Kyle McCarthy graduated, the Irish will need to revamp the safety position, with Harrison Smith and Jamoris Slaughter the front-runners for the jobs. A return to the 3-4 defense, more zone coverage, and defensive backs coach Chuck Martin should all help a veteran group of defensive backs reach their potential.

ROSTER READING:

Short a program? Here’s every defensive back on the roster.

     No.    Name                      Yr.    Ht./Wt.       Hometown/High School
      2       Darrin Walls            Sr.    6-0/190     Pittsburgh, PA (Woodland Hills)
      4       Gary Gray               Sr.    5-11/190   Columbia, SC (Richland Northeast)
     12      Robert Blanton        Jr.    6-1/192     Matthews, NC (Butler)
     15      Dan McCarthy         Jr.    6-2/205     Youngstown, OH (Cardinal Mooney)
     17      Zeke Motta              So.   6-2/210     Vero Beach, FL (Vero Beach)
     21      Barry Gallup, Jr.      Sr.    5-11/190   Wellesley, MA (Belmont Hill)
     22      Harrison Smith        Sr.    6-2/214     Knoxville, TN (Knoxville Catholic)
     23      Lo Wood                  Fr.    5-10/178   Apopka, FL (Apopka)
     26      Jamoris Slaughter   Jr.     6-0/195     Stone Mountain, GA (Tucker)
     27      E.J. Banks               So.   5-11/182   Pittsburgh, PA (Montour)
     29      Michael Garcia        Sr.    6-2/195     Colorado Springs, CO (St. Mary’s)
     30      James Redshaw      Sr.    5-9/175     North Huntingdon, PA (Norwin)
     33      Chris Salvi               Jr.     5-10/180   Lake Forest, IL (Carmel Catholic)
     35      Andrew Plaska        Jr.     5-11/185    Zeeland, MI (Zeeland West)
     39      Ryan Sheehan        Sr.     5-10/177   Purcellville, VA (Loudown Valley)
     40      Thomas Smith         Sr.    6-1/215      Manchester, CT (East Catholic)
     42      Nick Lezynski          Sr.    5-9/180      Newtown, PA (Notre Dame HS)

KELLY ON DEFENSIVE BACKS

On Gray: “Gary Gray has to play big for us. Gary Gray is a guy that has not been consistent enough on a day-to-day basis. At the end of the day, you have Blanton and you’ve got Walls, and you’ve
got Gary Gray and those are the three guys that have experience. Other
than that, we are tapping into zero experience. So he hears it from me
every day. He has to pick up his play.”

On Smith: “Harrison probably has been the number one guy in terms of his
performance. His
play has been steady and consistent.”

On Motta: “He’s a good player. He’s done a great job for us. I can’t wait to see some of these guys play, including Zeke. He’s going to be running around all over the place.”

Chuck Martin on McCarthy: “McCarthy is a guy who we think is a pretty good football player.We don’t have a lot of numbers back there, but the four guys we have, we feel are capable of helping us win football games.

Martin on Gallup: “He’s done well since he’s been over there. He’s a tough kid. He’s quick. Obviously he’s drinking through a fire house right now. But he’s an older kid, so he’s like, ‘Hey, I’m going to go out there and battle and take every rep I can get and keep competing to see how I can help this football team.’ He’s excited and we’re excited so I think it’s a good fit.”

Martin on Wood: “We’re getting unbelievable consistent effort out of him… He is trying to do it right every single snap. His approach to the game is absolutely what a coach is looking for.”

Martin on three veteran cornerbacks: “If you don’t think R.J., Darrin Walls and Gary Gray are going to play all the football they would ever want in a million years and more, that’s what I’m trying to prepare them for because they’re going to be on special teams.”

CRYSTAL BALL:

Believe it or not, the secondary wasn’t as bad as they looked last year. If a football team commits to sending six players after the quarterback every snap and they don’t get there, it’s the secondary that looks bad, not the defensive line and linebackers that didn’t get the pressure. Regardless of fault, the secondary was dreadful and has a lot to prove this season, and defensive backs coach Chuck Martin has his work cut out for him, building back a group that’s confidence was shot last season. While depth is thin after some attrition, each position group has four solid players, and as long as they stay healthy, the defensive backfield won’t be anywhere near the liability it was last year.

POSITION STRENGTH:

B- It’s tough to give this group too good of a grade after rewatching most of last season, but the potential is there for the secondary to become an asset. Getting consistent play out of the safeties will be the key. 

  1. irishfanintexas - Aug 25, 2010 at 11:13 PM

    Could not agree more–the d line and line backers did not do a good job at all last year at getting to the QB and as a result the secondary became very vulnerable. Hopefully with the change in nutrition and strength training the blitz will become a lot more effective. If that happens we’ll get a more accurate assessment of how the secondary plays.

  2. Paul - Aug 26, 2010 at 8:20 AM

    Every defensive back on the roster…not wide receiver.

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